Old Uffingtonians Association (1994)

   Willesden County Grammar School                         Ex-Pupils 1924-1967                    

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  Tom George (1958-65)

G’day. I stumbled on this site at the beginning of 2007.

It is a challenge to tell you classmates about my last 40 years and remain brief.  I have been kicking around in the Antipodes for 37 years.

Following WCGS 58-65, I did civil engineering at Birmingham University and then joined British Railways in a large design office at Euston.
After about 20 months I was suffocating with the drudgery of daily commuting and with working in a public-service environment.  City life I found depressing.  So in 1970, on a whim, I bought a ten-pound ticket to migrate to Australia, intending to stay only for 2-or-so years.  I picked Brisbane as the furthest I could go for my ten quid.

I started work on site on a railway line project running from Mackay on the coast to open up a new coalfield.  Then I moved on to Bougainville in New Guinea and a massive project constructing the infrastructure for a copper mine.  The opportunities for experience and development were enormous and the fire of construction on big projects stirred my enthusiasm for more.

In 1972 I was back in the land of Oz at a remote location in the hill country east of Melbourne, on a major project tunnelling for water supply.  From 1975 to 81 I was living in Melbourne, working on the construction of the new underground railway.   Subsequent jobs have seen me move through Qld and Victoria and NSW, including ten years in Canberra, on a variety of major construction projects.  On reflection I have led a somewhat gypsy life chasing the opportunities of big projects and have moved to a new location and employer with almost every project.  I have been mainly involved with supervision of contractors on site.  I remained at a middle-management level, preferring to keep in touch with the doing of the work, and wasn’t interested in getting further up the ladder.  There have been highs and lows, and periods of working just for the money, but I have been fortunate - generally as one door closed, another opened.

It is ironic that the schoolboy who was always close to the lowest marks in English before the O levels found that the right words, and the correct use of language has become an area where my skills are recognised (coupled with attention to detail, clear thinking and accumulated contractual knowledge).

I became involved exclusively in road construction projects from 1990.  This led in time to being in charge of a motorway project on the Gold Coast, southern Qld, followed by another in northern NSW, near Byron Bay (1 hour south of the border).

I found true love in 1975, but was left and divorced at age 33.  After 5 happy years I took it badly.  Bounced back within a couple of years, but crashed into divorce again at age 54 after 17 years.  Must have been inattentive during that class!  I have a fine daughter in Sydney who is a nurse.  She is married with 2 children.

I still have a love in my life - a beautiful black girl.   She is 15 years old.  I should mention that she is a shih-tzu – doesn’t quite fit an Aussie macho farm-dog image (neither do I), but we are the best of mates and I am committed to her care.

I love the open spaces here and have managed to stay out of the claustrophobia of urban areas most of the time.  In 2000 I bought a few acres on a hill in a very beautiful area near the coast, not far from Byron and renovated the house – about the fifth house I have renovated over the years.  I improved the run-down block and have replanted rainforest as my contribution to the environment, and set up a small orchard, planting of native plum trees, reflecting a movement here towards developing food from Aussie native plants.  About half my trees are a very local endangered and protected seedless species.  I understand that I am amongst the first trying to grow them in a commercial trial. (My contribution to science & commerce etc.)  I love the simple life, being in touch with the environment.

Away from work I seek physical activity outside in contrast to work, which is mostly desk and computer-bound.  Happiness is playing farmer with my pet tractor.  At home I have the convenience of marina and beach and town, both about 5 minutes away and have exceptional postcard views of rugged green hills.  It is a very lush tropical corner of NSW with few climate extremes.  Shorts and tee-shirt suffice for most of the year.  Just the place to retire. Paradise compared with bleak old Willesden.

I move to 2001 - I concluded that the expectation of long working hours and increasing stress as leader on a project was more than I was prepared to give at work, and enthusiasm and commitment were declining into resentment and cynicism.  I had failed my dream of having the financial resource to retire by age 50 in style.  At age 55 I shifted my focus away from work as the main event to give more time for other interests – cash flow to be what will be.

In the past 5 years I have worked for about half the time, on contract work up in Qld., motivated by the money, only marginally enthused.
I have been working again on contract for the past 6 months now in Brisbane, but I am always busy on things down at the farm at the weekends (about 2 hours away).  I am close to being ready to give work away, but divorces have financial consequences, and I am not as financially comfortable as I would like.

I am in the process of finalising details to start on a new project soon here in Brisbane.  It is to upgrade (widen) about 20 km of motorway through the city, including another long bridge over the river, the biggest publicly-funded project to date in the state.  I will be with the independent verifier (i.e policeman for quality).  One more decent job is too tempting, but I expect it will probably be my last job.

I was last back in the UK in 1979 and was disappointed with the place and the changes.  That last trip reinforced my love for the life to be enjoyed in this country and the work opportunities here, so I’m still here.  A to visit back to the UK for a while is on the agenda, probably in retirement.

I keep as active as I can, am relatively fit and health is good – bit like my 20+ year-old car – dents in the bodywork, seats and deco a bit shabby, horsepower down and moving parts not to manufacturers specification any more.  Not ready for a trade-in yet, but a few changeover parts will be needed in due course – just in time for medicos to catch up.

Interests are wide, with outdoors and tackling things myself by hand always preferred to sedentary interests.  I am big on history and biography, particularly English.  I keep up with news and current affairs and love a political/historical discussion and enjoy arguing the toss, irrespective of whether I know anything about the subject.

I look back at the schoolboy who was shy and an introvert, a bit of a loner who didn’t join in as much as I could have, with a stubborn and independent streak.  I have regrets about opportunities missed at WCGS.  I had ups and downs, but have been fortunate and am happy with where life has taken me.  I have survived without the dark forces sapping my spirit or sucking me under.  I have mellowed with the years, go with the flow, and am more accepting of what is preordained to be bowled at me.  I wonder what I’ll do when I grow up.

That’s my story (or draft obituary). It has been soul-searching.  I never imagined I’d be able to turn back the clock and contact any of you again.  I have fond, but hazy memories and am interested in how your lives turned out. I wish you all well.